10 Classics That Should Be on Every Child’s Bookshelf

November 23, 2020 Updated: November 23, 2020

The best children’s books are those that stand the test of time, and that can be enjoyed by adults as well as children. As C.S. Lewis famously said, “A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.”

Stocking a child’s bookshelf with such classic stories is a priceless gift and one that can enhance the lives of the entire family. Here are 10 classics that every child, young and old, can enjoy.

‘The Secret Garden’ by Frances Hodgson Burnett

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First published in 1911, this lovely story tells the tale of young, forlorn Mary and what becomes of her when she is sent to live with her lonely uncle in his manor on the moor. The audio version narrated by Susie Berneis is quite nice as well.

‘The Trumpet of the Swan’ by E.B. White

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It’s hard not to smile while reading E.B. White’s delightful tale of Louis the trumpeter swan, his friendship with a young boy, and his resourcefulness in finding a way to serenade the swan he loves. Centering on themes of courage, freedom, and love, and peppered with wholesome humor throughout with prose only White could deliver so beautifully, it’s a must-have.

‘The Chronicles of Narnia’ by C. S. Lewis

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This collection of seven enchanting books should be at the very top of your shopping list for the young people in your life. These are the stories you enjoy over and over again. The audiobook version, narrated by actors including Derek Jacobi, Lynn Redgrave, and Patrick Stewart, of these stories is excellent.

Aesop’s Fables

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The ultimate in classics, Aesop’s Fables still delivers relevant and familiar moral lessons after more than 2,000 years. A collection of these traditional tales is great to enjoy over and over.

‘Heidi’ by Johanna Spyri

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Johanna Spyri’s classic transports the reader to the crisp air of the Swiss Alps. The endearing tale of a young orphan, Heidi, and the beauty she brings to the lives of all who know her, is delightful and appropriate for all ages in the original, unabridged format.

The Tales of Beatrix Potter

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Beatrix Potter’s familiar tales of Peter Rabbit, Jemima Puddleduck, Tom Kitten, and so many others are darling and pleasing stories that every generation should experience. Potter’s love of nature shines through every page as her humorous and mischievous characters come to life.

‘The Velveteen Rabbit’ by Margery Williams

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Speaking of rabbits, “The Velveteen Rabbit” will touch the heart of any reader, young or old. It’s full of love and a unique spiritual quality that the reader doesn’t soon forget. It is a quintessential read-aloud storybook.

‘The Wind in the Willows’ by Kenneth Grahame

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The timeless adventures of Mole, Water Rat, Badger, and Toad are deeply imaginative and entertaining for both children and adults. It’s a book the whole family will love.

J.R.R. Tolkien’s ‘The Lord of the Rings’ Trilogy and ‘The Hobbit’

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These Tolkien classics are epic storytelling beyond compare, and no list of classic children’s literature would be complete without them. A bit heavy in battle content and a more challenging read than the aforementioned books, these stories are probably better for an older age group, but when the kids are ready, dive in.

Hans Christian Andersen’s Fairy Tales

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No children’s library would be complete without selections from the master of fairy tales, Hans Christian Andersen. Whether gathered as a compilation or enjoyed in separate books, familiar stories such as “The Snow Queen,” “The Ugly Duckling,” and “The Nightingale” are a fundamental part of our literary tradition.

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